Do You Need Supplemental Iron?
Most older people don’t need supplemental iron. In fact, they’re better off without it, since too much iron causes oxidative damage in the body.
But some older people may need it. Poor nutrition is rarely the cause of iron deficiency in adults. It’s more likely to be due to:
• Malabsorption due to Crohn’s or celiac disease, or intestinal surgery.
• Regular use of aspirin or other NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen, which can cause gastrointestinal bleeding.
• Stomach-acid reducing drugs, which inhibit iron absorption.
• Inflammatory condition such as rheumatoid arthritis.
• Frequent blood draws or recent surgery.
Iron deficiency can sneak up on you slowly, until you begin to notice symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, even restless legs syndrome, a disorder that causes an uncomfortable feeling in the legs that can only be relieved by movement.
If you have such symptoms, you’ll need blood tests to determine if you have anemia, and if so, what kind. Your doctor will also try to determine the cause. In addition to iron, it’s a good idea to check folate, B12 and vitamin C levels.
The Anti-Aging Bottom Line: It’s best to only take iron supplements with medical monitoring, since taking them when you don’t need them will cause more harm than good. If you have symptoms of an iron deficiency, consult with a health care practition who can test for anemia and help you safely supplement your diet.
Article updated on: August 6th, 2008